Tbilisi Food Tour
Old Market & Beyond: A Walk on Tbilisi’s Culinary Wild Side
Quick bite: Our tour unravels the secrets of the feast by exploring Tbilisi’s central farmer’s market, sampling national dishes, tasting natural wines and feasting at a family-owned courtyard restaurant.
Located between Tbilisi’s central train station and Dynamo Stadium is the Georgian capital’s largest and oldest open-air marketplace – the Deserter’s Bazaar. Named after the soldiers who fled the Czar’s army in the early 19th century and sold their guns and equipment there, the bazaar today is the main food source of most of Tbilisi’s restaurants and many families seeking the best bargains in fresh produce. It is a raw, chaotic warren of unprocessed victuals delivered daily, directly from the countryside, and a site not often featured in travel guides. Yet, no place in the city provides deeper insight into Georgia’s rich food culture, for this convergence point is where it all begins.
Georgia is both a deeply passionate and laid back nation. Dining is perhaps the country’s number one pastime. This makes the bazaar one of the busiest places in Tbilisi. Our trip begins with a warm loaf of tone’s puri, bread baked in a traditional tandoori-like oven located in the cellar of the Tbilisi seminary. Then we’re off to the market where we will meander through the bustling medley of people selling those products that are the rudiments to Georgian cuisine.
Georgia is both a deeply passionate and laid back nation. Dining is perhaps the country’s number one pastime.
We will sample tone’s lobiani, a traditionally baked bean-stuffed bread, fresh Georgian cheese, honey from an east Georgian family of beekeepers and delicious churchkhelas, a string of nuts dipped in a thick roux of grape juice. Our route also takes us to Miss Iza and her special mixes of spices and to the bazaar’s raffish wine section, a collection of no-frills “pop ups” that serve authentic homemade wines and chacha – Georgia’s legendary take on grappa. Later, Mister Tamaz, the pickle king, will offer us some of his generations-long family recipes of pickled goodies.
We’ll catch a ride to Freedom Square and walk over to a family-owned backstreets restaurant that offers home-style meals prepared with the freshest, most natural ingredients available. The finale of our journey will be a guided tasting at the city’s first wine bar of Georgia’s indigenous red and amber wines, made naturally following an 8000 year tradition.
Fee includes everything consumed on the walk. Some special features:
|Visits residential neighborhood||Children welcome|
|Can be adjusted for vegetarian diet||Includes market visits, can be crowded at times|
|Samples alcohol||Terrain fairly flat/ Stroller – friendly|
|Cannot accommodate a vegan diet nor nut allergies||Can be adjusted for a gluten free diet|
How are you dealing with COVID-19 risk on your walks?
We have reinforced our commitment to safety with new guidelines to assure maximum safety of our guests on our walks in terms of social distancing and hygiene while maintaining the quality of the experience. For more details on our precautions, read here.
Our routes have been altered during this period of time to ensure the safety of our guests, guides and community. Our cancellation policy is extremely flexible to deal with changes in travel plans.
What is included in the fee? In addition to your Culinary Backstreets guide, all food consumed on the walk – almost a dozen different edible specialties – are included in the price. A limited selection of alcohol is served on the walks and is included in the price.
Why is the Culinary Backstreets tour more expensive than some other walking tours? Our approach is different than most tour companies. Each of our culinary walks is the outcome of considerable research. We work with academics in the field and our own team of experienced professionals – both guides and local journalists. Our ongoing publishing of articles, from restaurant reviews to features about the intersection of food and culture, constantly feeds new material into the culinary walks, so they evolve and constantly improve. Though costly, we believe that this is how to create the quality experiences we strive for. We practice honest tourism and would never accept a free lunch or any sort of commission. On the contrary, we are proud to know that the money spent during the culinary walk goes to support businesses that we believe in, helping to preserve the social and cultural fabric of the cities we love so dearly.
How does the payment process work? Once you have made a reservation, we require the full fee to be paid in order to complete the online booking. Our online booking system uses Stripe to process secure payments.
What is your cancellation policy? 100% will be refunded if given 1 week notice prior to walk and 50% will be refunded if given 72 hours notice or more.
Are your walks public or private? How many people are on them? Our walks are 2-7 people and are open to the public. If you would like to do a private walk, we may be able to arrange one for an additional fee. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Can I get a discount if I join more than one walk? Yes, we offer a 10% discount to those who join more than one walk. Please email us at email@example.com you’d like to join multiple walks.
Are your walks suitable for people with food allergies? This can vary based on a number of factors, including the food item in question. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your situation before booking. In general, many Georgian dishes contain nuts, so a participant with a nut allergy might need to skip a few of the stops on our walk.
Are your walks suitable for vegetarians and pescatarians? Most of the stops on the Tbilisi walk will be vegetarian or have vegetarian alternatives and substitutions.
Are your walks suitable for a gluten-free diet? You can consider Georgia a gluten-free friendly country. Naturally, you won’t be able to enjoy the staples of bread, khachapuri and khinkali, but we encounter a wide variety of gluten free food and there is no problem finding alternative dishes to our planned menus at the restaurants we visit.
Are your walks suitable for a dairy-free diet? Some stops will not have any dairy-free options, but most stops will be able to accommodate a dairy-free diet.
How physically demanding are the walks? The walk is not very physically demanding. We take a five to ten minute taxi ride from the old town to the bazaar, wander for about an hour or more, and then it’s a five minute ride to our next stop from there. Afterwards, we walk for about a total of 20 minutes.
Can children join the walks? Of course! We offer a 50% discount to children ages 12 and under, and we do not charge for children under the ages 6 and under. Plus, Georgians love children. You will find them most accommodating and attentive hosts. However, keep in mind the walk involves touring a congested farmer’s market and may be difficult to maneuver with a toddler. On the other hand, children have the liberty to play in the restaurants we visit, particularly the last stop, which has a yard and play corner for children.
Is the walk stroller friendly? The walk is not very stroller friendly. The bazaar is a bustling, crowded outdoor marketplace in an area of broken sidewalks, potholes and stairs where cars, vans, hand-trucks and people zig-zag and bump and grind through the chaos.
Can you pick me up from my hotel? How will I return, once the tour is over? Our tour prices don’t include transportation. If you book a tour, you’re responsible for arriving to the pre-arranged meeting spot on your own. Once the tour is over, we will help you get an authorized, safe taxi to your hotel, or provide directions on public transportation, if you’re interested in that.
Is Tbilisi safe these days? The crime rate in Georgia is very low. Studies have revealed that it is safer than many western European cities. Nevertheless, one must be on guard for pickpockets at the bazaar.
Is there any alcohol on this walk? Georgia’s history of wine making goes back 8,000 years. Wine tasting is a prominent component of our walk. The concept of wine spittoons are not popular in Georgia and guests are encouraged to swallow their wine (a sin otherwise). However, a spittoon will be provided upon request at our wine tasting stop. For non-drinkers, Georgia offers excellent mineral waters and unique soda water flavored with tarragon, pear and grape, among others.